The victory was Day’s 11th on the PGA Tour, but it has a different feeling given that his last triumph came in May 2016 at the Players Championship.
He has battled a bad back for much of that 20-month stretch, withdrawing from last week’s Wednesday pro-am at Torrey Pines and struggling mightily during Thursday’s first round on the way to a 1-over 73. That changed in the second round as he looked much more comfortable during an 8-under 64. It put him squarely in the mix as a handful of players jockeyed back and forth on the weekend.
On Sunday, Day went out in 4-under 32 to reach 12 under for the tournament, but bogeys on Nos. 11 and 15 dropped him into a three-way playoff featuring Norén and Ryan Palmer. Palmer quickly bowed out with a par on the first extra hole, the par-5 18th, while Day and Norén continued to match each other into the night.
When they came back in the morning to play the par-5 18th once again, Norén appeared to have the advantage off the tee. However, his second shot from 255 yards came up short and found the water hazard. Day laid up and make birdie.
“I was up all night trying to think of how to get win No. 11,” Day told CBS. “Last season wasn’t the best for me and I had a lot of things happening off the course with my mother having cancer.”
Day’s back remains an issue. He had an MRI exam after recently throwing his back out in Palm Springs. The test did not reveal any mechanical issue, but Day is committed to finding a healthy solution to maintaining a healthy back.
“I’m actually working on a few things in my swing that should help relieve some of the pressure,” Day said. “Hopefully I can play until I’m 45 or 50. I would love to.”
Norén, the nine-time European Tour winner searching for his first PGA Tour victory, lamented what was a solidly struck second shot on the deciding playoff hole.
“The yardage was a perfect 3-wood for me,” Norén said. “But being in the intermediate cut, it just had a little bit too much spin on it.”